Oxtail. The word alone is curious. Probably mostly because it’s not like we typically eat tail (fur removed, of course). But when I tried it for the first time, I immediately realized this cut of meat is among the best of the best. We’re talking joining the ranks of short ribs and osso buco (if you’re into that sort of thing). Oxtail is succulent, tender and fall-off-the-bone perfection.
And when you cook it in a sweet and savory gravy with just the right amount of spice, you have yourself the finest Jamaican Oxtail Stew you’ve ever devoured. But have no fear, although this dish is known to have a Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper in it, it’s not THAT spicy once cooked and it’s also totally optional should you wish to keep things on the mild side. And although this is called a “stew,” it’s not really meant to be eaten like a soup. It’s more a premium meat dish with a rich and zesty gravy meant to be draped over the oxtail and rice.
The Instant Pot changes the game with this one, folks.
Here’s How I Made It! (scroll to the bottom for the fully-written recipe):
Begin with a Spanish (or yellow) onion…
…and dice it up.
Take a bunch of scallions…
…and slice ’em up.
steal borrow some carrots from Bugs Bunny’s garden…
…and slice them into disks.
And comes the sole ingredient which puts the Jamaican spin on this dish: our pepper! We are going to use a Scotch bonnet OR habanero OR Jamaican hot pepper here (same pepper, different names). And any color will do as they’re really all the same. Now, don’t be fooled by this tiny, little pepper. It may be small, but the spice level is MIGHTY.
Slice off the top and then slice the pepper down the center.
Remove the seeds and ribs (the white part) from within the pepper. You can use your hands to do this but you absolutely MUST wash your hands after. If you don’t and you touch your face or worse, your eyes, be prepared for some MAJOR discomfort. Therefore, it may be wise to put a little olive oil on your fingers ahead of touching the pepper as that helps repel the spice. Or, better yet, use latex gloves if you have them. If not, dish soap will do – just make sure you wash those hands!
Then, dice that pepper up!
Alternatively, if you want a milder pepper experience, sub a jalapeño instead. Or don’t use one at all! The choice is yours.
Okay, now let’s focus on our spices. Kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, allspice, dried thyme, paprika and curry powder.
And also some brown sugar (either light or dark)…
…and mix them together.
And now, for the star of the show – THE OXTAIL!
Take each piece and dredge/coat it in the spice mixture…
…and set aside on a plate.
Now, go to the Instant Pot and add in some vegetable oil…
Give it some heat and once the butter’s melted…
…in batches, and in the oxtail.
Sear for about a minute…
…and then flip it over so the other side gets some love.
When done searing, remove to a plate.
See all that remaining oil and fat in the pot with some maybe a little stuck to the pot? It’s time for a magic trick.
Add in some Worcestershire (Wuh-stuh-sheer) sauce…
…and then use a mixing spoon/spatula to deglaze/scrape the bottom of the pot. All the browned bits from the seasonings will come up!
Now, add in the onion, scallions, carrots and pepper…
…and sauté in the oils/sauce.
After a few minutes, add in some soy sauce…
…and continue to sauté.
Then, add in some garlic…
…and sauté for a moment longer.
Now it’s time to add in some beef broth…
…ketchup (yes, ketchup is required here. Trust me)…
Add the seared oxtail back to the pot (it’s okay to layer on top of one another), secure the lid and pressure cook.
When done, it’s going to look like this (note how much extra broth is in the pot after pressure cooking – that’s all from the amazing juices from the oxtail meat and bones).
Use tongs to carefully remove the super tender oxtail to a serving dish.
Now, let’s focus on turning the broth and drippings into an amazing gravy!
Create a cornstarch slurry by mixing together equal parts cornstarch and water…
…bring the pot to a boil…
…stir in the slurry…
stir and kill the heat. It will thicken into the perfect gravy!
Now, for some finishing touches. Add in some tomato paste…
Give everything a good stir until the tomato paste is melded into the sauce,
Lastly, take a can of butter beans and rinse and drain…
…and add to the pot! Give everything a final stir.
Generously ladle the gravy all over the stew.
Now, it’s time to admire the masterpiece you’ve just created.
Bring the fork to your mouth…
…and this should be the proper reaction.
See that meat?! Just LOOK at how tender, juicy and fall-off-the-bone it is!
In fact, forget the forks! Bring that bone-suckin’ goodness right to your mouth using your fingers…
…and encourage everyone to leave their manners at the door!
It’s THAT good, kids! Serve it over rice as well and be sure to pour more of that incredible gravy over it!
- 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
- 3 pounds beef oxtail, sliced into 1-inch disks (they usually already come like this at the market – if not, ask the butcher to cut them like this for you)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, divided in half
- 1 large Spanish or yellow onion, diced
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch disks
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (or habanero pepper or Jamaican hot pepper), diced, with the seeds and ribs (inner white part) discarded (NOTE: this pepper may look small but don’t be fooled – it is VERY powerful and spicy. If you choose to keep the ribs and seeds in, expect the spice level to be extreme as that’s the key source of heat. Therefore, if not using gloves, DO NOT touch your eyes after handling the seeds and ribs or the inside of the pepper itself. Wash your hands thoroughly with dish soap first. Alternatively, for a milder spice, sub a jalapeño pepper or just leave the pepper out altogether if you don’t want any heat factor. It won’t be a true Jamaican Oxtail Stew without it, but who cares? It’ll still taste incredible.)
- 3 cloves (1 tablespoon) garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 cup beef broth (I used 1 teaspoon Beef Better Than Bouillon + 1 cup water)
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water mixed to form a slurry
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
- 16-ounce can of butter beans, rinsed and drained
- In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, allspice, dried thyme, paprika and curry powder (if using). Coat the oxtail pieces with them and discard any of the remaining spice mixture.
- Add the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter to the Instant Pot and hit Sauté and adjust so it’s on the More or High setting. After 3 minutes of heating, in batches, add the coated oxtail pieces and sear for about 45-60 seconds on each side until lightly browned. Remove with tongs when done and let sit on a plate to rest.
- Then, add the Worcestershire sauce and deglaze (scrape) the bottom of the pot so it’s free of anything that was stuck on it previously (Worcestershire sauce is amazing at deglazing anything caked onto the bottom of a pot). Follow by adding in the remaining butter and stir it around to make it melt quickly.
- Next, add the onion, scallions, carrots and the pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Then, add in the soy sauce and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer. By now, any blackened brown sugar stuck on the perimeter of the pot’s bottom from the searing in Step 2 should have dissolved.
- Pour in the broth and the ketchup and stir until everything is well combined. Return the lightly browned oxtail pieces to the pot (it’s fine to rest them on top of each other). Secure the lid, move the valve to the sealing position, hit Keep Warm/Cancel and then hit Pressure Cook or Manual at high pressure for 45 minutes. When done, allow a 15 minutes natural release followed by a quick release.
- When the lid comes off, use tongs to carefully transfer the oxtail pieces (they will be super tender) to a large serving dish to rest. Hit Keep Warm/Cancel and then hit Sauté again and adjust so it’s on the more or high setting. Once bubbling, stir in the cornstarch slurry. After 30 seconds of bubbling, hit Keep Warm/Cancel to turn the pot off. Stir in the tomato paste until melded and then add the Gravy Master (if using) and beans and allow everything to rest for 3-5 minutes so the beans are heated and the gravy thickens nicely.
- When ready to serve, stir the gravy and ladle it over the oxtail on a serving dish. Serve over a rice of your choice!
Although this is called a “stew,” it’s not really meant to be eaten like a soup. It’s more a premium meat dish with a rich and zesty gravy mean to be draped over rice.
Some folks may argue with me, but I find the only difference between a Scotch bonnet pepper, habanero pepper or a Jamaican hot pepper is the name. They are identical and VERY SPICY – especially in their raw state and with the seeds and rib (the white part) in tact. Also, while these peppers can be red, yellow, orange or green, it really doesn’t matter which color you choose – it will all be the same experience.
To the above point – DON’T FREAK OUT ABOUT THE HEAT! Yes, this pepper is extremely spicy on its own but, with the seeds and ribs removed and when cooked in a sweet and savory sauce, the heat level is cut significantly into something like a 4 or 5 spice-level on a scale of 10 being the spiciest.
After handling the inside of a Scotch bonnet pepper variety, you absolutely MUST wash your hands after. If you don’t and you touch your face or worse, your eyes, be prepared for some MAJOR discomfort. Therefore, it may be wise to put a little olive oil on your fingers ahead of touching the pepper as that helps repel the heat. Or, better yet, use latex gloves if you have them. If not, dish soap will do – just make sure you wash those hands!
It doesn’t matter how much oxtail you use to use – the cooking time and all ingredients will remain the same.
Don’t be shy to eat the oxtail with your hands! It’s the one true way to be sure you get all of that succulent, butter-like meat from the bone to your belly!